Virgin Atlantic A340-600 G-VNAP Phoenix 1:200 & 1:400 May 2018

Welcome to 1400reviews.com 500th review!

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I’m honestly really thrilled that it fell, as it has, to this particular aircraft. It was the first new one I bought when I got back into the hobby after several years abroad.

This isn’t the first time I’ve reviewed G-VNAP. Last time it was the fake-believe Gemini version from 2011. They produced GJVIR1038 in a livery it could quite easily have actually had – the current Virgin Atlantic “billboard” scheme. Except it wasn’t an accurate portrayal of it – largely Virgin Atlantic’s confusion over it as it was produced for their retail online shop – and it never did, in real life, get the livery.

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The Gemini 1:400 fake believe version from 2011 sold through Virgin Atlantic’s Retail Therapy website.

The A340-600 is an odd aircraft, strangely elegant or oddly proportioned, depending on your point of view. The quite large Rolls Royce Trent 556-61’s look almost too big for it.

Virgin Atlantic was actually the launch customer for the aircraft, and over the years took 19 of them, only Lufthansa had more.  Virgin’s famous “Four for the long haul” advertising campaign, championing the fact its entire fleet at the time was four engined and better suited to long distance flying looked a bit silly even then, and with hindsight it looks frankly laughable. The A346 was far from the economy flying machine it needed to be, and Boeing’s 777 was easily a match for it in capability and range, at much lower fuel burn.

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G-VNAP’s first ten-year stint with Virgin Atlantic was entirely served in this livery

G-VNAP – named “Sleeping Beauty” in the usual witty Virgin nomenclature, entered service in  February 2005 and departed at the end of her lease in April 2015. She sat, in her all-plain-white livery, part of Airbus’ growing collection of used A346’s stored at Lourdes in SW France. Iran had secretly purchased many of her ex Virgin Atantic sisters through an Iraqi shell company, then smuggled pilots into Baghdad, and flew them to Tehran where they serve Mahan Air.

Nothing more was likely to be seen of the A346 fleet, it was winding down, due to fully retire in 2019. Numbers dropped from 19 – and the entire fleet now sits at just 7 with G-VWIN having gone in March 2018, but is now being resurrected; she flew from Tupelo to Lufthansa Technik Manilla for return to service work, on May 4th 2018.

The cause of these re-activations is the Rolls-Royce issue on the 789 fleet. Up to 5 aircraft at a time are now out of service – something Virgin Atlantic just cannot afford to be without. Hence the leasing of three A332’s and the reintroduction of two A346’s.

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There is a crucial thing we need to get with these aircrtaft – all of them. They are a temporary fix. Virgin Atlantic bought the A346 from Airbus for a paltry sum – they were at a point where they’d do anything to sell one and it’s said the price was “well under $4,000,000”. I’ve heard that part of that was funded by Rolls Royce but I’ve seen no evidence to that effect.

Being a temporary fix, the company wanted a cheap way out – buying your own aircraft back when you have a stock of seats and interior kit to fit them seems like a no-brainer. And the airline took another decision; they would not be painted in the full pearlescent metallic: it’s way to expensive and has a lifetime of ten years. They won’t be flying for more than three at best.

So, the base white is just that, a flat, standard white probably the same paint she’d been given prior to storage. All they had to do at Air Services in Manchester was paint on the red tail and engines – these are the correct “1966 Candy Apple Red”.

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The other changes – a slight renaming – now called “Sleeping Beauty Rejuvenated” – and of course the pilot wings logo at the rear quarter (it’s in the same place on both sides, only the wording is reversed).

The wording “a big virgin atlantic thank you” is aimed at passengers and crew, a means of communicating the airlines appreciation of its staff and its customers – who remain a surprisingly loyal group. Having recently flown Delta I can understand why. There really is no comparison – Virgin crews are infinitely superior, as are their food, service, and aircraft.

G-VNAP re-entered service on February 14th 2018 and has exclusively flown the New York JFK route from Heathrow.

Because this aircraft has a special place in my heart, I did something I only do with Virgin Atlantic, and bought it in 1:400 and 1:200. It’s not the first time I’ve done this – I did it with G-VXLG in 2016, G-VNEW in 2015 and G-VEIL in 2016 for different reasons. However it is the first time I’ve reviewed one against the other from the same manufacturer. Is 1:200 so much better? Is the price of a 1:400 worth it? Lets take a look.

1.Fusleage

1:200 Version PH20180

First I need to mention the box – the line drawing of the aircraft and its colours are spot on – you probaly know if you’ve been here before why I mention this now. More bizarrely, the registration on the back and front of the box is listed as G-VZNP, but the line diagram is correct with G-VNAP on the aircraft.

This sent me into a “oh please don’t tell me its wrong on the model” panic – and it’s not.

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Photo: 1:200 version. The flash produces a much whiter response than it actually is in real life, but look at the thickness of the “virgin” compared to the “atlantic” and the other wording. The exact same thing happens on the 1:400

The fuselage colour leaps straight out at you as being exactly the same as the last A346 in 1:200 in VS colours (G-VEIL) – they’ve used the barely metallic-pearl finish, not white as it should be on this special version. No research here then, despite the information being on Virgin’s web site, and several other key websites like VSsource.com.  Let’s hope Gemini don’t make the same mistakes with the A332 in 1:400.

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Photo: 1:200 version

There’s an obvious problem with the lettering – the “a big” and “thank you” are fine, they’re thinner and leave the “virgin atlantic” as a stand out logo. However the “virgin” is obviously thicker than the “atlantic”, which is half way between the two.  It looks less obvious from a distance – quite a big distance to be fair at this scale – turn the model though, from the rear quarter and it stands out like a sore thumb.

More annoyance – the forward aerial is upside down. Add to that the new (i.e it wasn’t on the G-VEIL version), red navigation light which is inserted red plastic, while very nice detail, has an obvious rubber glove print in the roof where it was pushed in, as does the middle aerial, and the light wobbles about.

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Photo: 1:200 version. You can see the mark in the roof paint around the red light where it was pushed in, and it wobbles about.

Some splashy droplets – hard to see except on close up – from the aubergine paint of the lettering appears in places, and now and again there are a few lumps of dust in the paint, though not many.

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Photo 1:200 version – a again under a flash the fuselage pearl almost looks white (because that’s the clever thing about that type of paint) but it just isn’t plain white in indirect light, and looks pale grey. The same thing happens with the 1:400 version.

While the windows and doors are all present and appear neat and tidy, the technical detail is larger and crisper of course than a 1:400, but there’s not a lot of it. In all honesty this looks and feels like a scaled-up 1:400 (I suspect it’s a vector file of some type, so that will explain much about these models).

Overall the mould is more than acceptable, but there are plenty of other issues.

1:400 version PH11452

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Photo 1:400 version

The box is very different and has no issues. And that is where the differences almost end.

The paint is exactly as on the 1:200, the lettering is exactly the same – and the scale makes the thickness differential seem strangely more obvious, because it’s easier to see in a smaller space. It’s noticeably worse on the left side too.

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1:400 version – note the much thicker virgin lettering, and the atlantic is slightly thinner.

The aerials are all the right way up, including the two underneath. In fact, the 1:400 has no dust, has no blemishes, and has exactly the same technical detail. If it wasn’t for the fact the colour was wrong you’d be pretty happy with the overall fuselage and the way it’s finished. It’s also better put together than the 1:400 of G-VEIL. In fact it’s better put together than the 1:200 version of itself!

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1:400 version

2.Wings

1:200 Version PH20180

These are detailed, good moulds, well painted and don’t overly obscure the fine mould detail with paint.  However they are far from a seamless fit, to my mind they’re fairly poor as inserted wing moulds go, with gaps all round and the starboard wing underneath looks like it’s in a hole far too large for it.

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Photo 1:200 version – the further away you are the less you notice the thickness of the lettering

One of the wing tips is also slightly bent, but was easily straightened out. The strength of these wings is amazing. I dropped G-VEIL about a year ago, the wing bent in the middle like a banana. I was mortified, but, using plenty of cloth and a small hammer, I was able to beat it back into the original position – and the paint didn’t even crack. You’d honestly never know it ever happened!

1:400 version PH11452

 

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Photo 1:400 version

The usual 1:400 issue of too much paint obscuring mould details, but a far better fit and in many ways a better overall finish, which is slightly surprising.

In fact the wings are excellent and far better than those on the 1:400 version of G-VEIL.

3.Landing gear

1:200 Version PH20180

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1:200 with its supplied stand

First off note the colour, because the irony is that the hydraulics are in fact relatively visible and frankly, fairly silver on the real thing. There isn’t a drop of silver paint on the 1:200 to be seen.

The real problem with the 1:200 gear is the stand. Phoenix have made no effort to move the hole further up the fuselage, even by a centimeter would have done. Instead the model is positively dangerous on a stand – it either slides to one side, pointing precipitously and unnaturally, upward; or it rests on the middle gear which can easily stress it – it can even slip off and fly off the stand (voice of experience here). It’s a big model to do that and damage will ensue!

The nose gear is quite neat, but again, no silver at all. At this scale there’s room to get it accurate, and they haven’t really even tried.

1:400 version PH11452

The gear is silver, and not a bright, glaring silver (the flash makes it look worse than it is), so it actually looks better than on the 1:200. Who’d have thought?

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Photo 1:400 version

All of the main gear is excellent, tyres on wheels, all rotate, nose gear is also really neat. A couple of the tyres do have excess rubber but I was able to remove it fairly easily as it wasn’t lumps, more threads.

Overall pretty good landing gear to be fair.

4.Engines

1:200 Version PH20180

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Engines are one of the few things that really set 1:200 above 1:400. Size alone gives manufacturers opportunities to demonstrate excellence – if they choose to.

The big Rolls Royce Trent’s don’t respond well to flash from the front – the red behind the fans in the inner nacelles walls shows up too much, but it’s absolutely not a fault! All four engine fans rotate, and they’re actually a good titanium colour.

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The two inner engines both have mould marks that have been painted over on the upper nacelles, which looks untidy. The same issue happens around the edge of the dark exhaust cone paint. Outer engines are both unaffected.  They also have centre spinners which is a plus point in detail.

Overall the engines are very good, a major highlight of the model.

1:400 version PH11452

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Photo 1:400 version – the flash really makes the pearl colour work, but it really isn’t that white without it.

The engine rims as so very often, have too much red metallic showing through. You can see it from any reasonable distance, on No.2, 3 & 4 engines. 1 and 3 both have pretty poor rim paint at the bottom of the inner rim.  It’s not diabolical, but for heaven’s sake how they hell are they still doing it like this after all these years? It’s just too tedious.

The rear exhaust cone paint is also far too light, but the fan colour is actually quite good.

 5.Nose detail

1:200 Version PH20180

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You can see the upside down aerial at the front clearly. That greyish tint is close to the real models actual colour

The flying lady isn’t the usual type, it’s the type so far used only on G-VNEW “Birthday Girl”, the first of the 787-9’s delivered back in November 2015. In 1:200 it looks excellent, in fact pretty much everything does. There just doesn’t seem to be that much super-fine detail. Maybe my expectations are too great.

1:400 version PH11452

I think it’s actually better on the 1:400 (mostly)! It’s clearer in detail, what there is, is no different, but it just seems easier to see. It is a scaled down version of the 1:200, but as an overall package, it’s just a little bit better – and the aerial at the front is the right way up! The downside is the name on the left side is not as good as it should be.

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Photo 1;400 version, note the aircraft name is part missing letters and not straight.

6.Tail detail

1:200 Version PH20180

Not as well assembled, with big gaps on the left side of the vertical, some wavy paint as it transitions to white. Not deeply impressive.

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1:400 version PH11452

Simply, a much better fit and finish, right across the board in my view. The smaller scale has brought a higher level of overall satisfaction. In many ways the 1:200 while OK just doesn’t meet the 1:400 standard. I really didn’t expect this.

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Photo 1:400 version

7.Colour

There’s no point in separating them out here – they both have exactly the same problem – the primary fuselage body colour is basically not white as it should be, but Phoenix’s version of the metallic-pearl. That is simply fundamentally wrong. It’s a major fail. An appalling assumption and a failure of basic research. This, and the A332’s are white not the standard – and expensive – pearl.

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1:400 version

The “1966 Candy Apple Red” has been consistent for some time, and both use the same paint types, which is excellent.

To their credit Phoenix have managed to keep the aubergine (dark purple metallic) lettering – something Gemini fails on frequently, seeming to mistake it for black.

8.Score and conclusions

                                  1:200 Version PH20180                                         

Accuracy

  • -8 the “Virgin Atlantic” wording print problem
  • -10 the fuselage colour fail
  • -4 fuselage paint colour on landing gear, lack of detail

28/50 for accuracy

Quality

  • -2 for the upside down aerial
  • -2 for the loose red navigation light
  • -2 for the marks in the paint around aerial and light
  • -2 for the red-white tail paint transition
  • -2 for marks in the engine moulds
  • -3 for the poor vertical stabilizer fit
  • -3 wing fit not especially brilliant
  • -5 for the dreadful stand arrangement

29/50 for quality

Overall Score for the 1:200:  56% 


                            1:400 version PH11452

Accuracy 

  • -8 the “Virgin Atlantic” wording print problem
  • -10 the fuselage colour fail
  • -4 too-light engine exhausts

28/50 for accuracy

Quality

  • -4 for the engine rims
  • -1 wobbly name print at the left side nose

45/50 for quality

Overall Score for the 1:400:  73% 


I really wouldn’t have ever thought the 1:400 would be better than a 1:200. The larger model is nearly three times the price of the 1:400, and frankly a very disappointing thing it is too.

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1:400 version

Phoenix have let the side down with colours and their laziness doing research, but the 1:400 is overall, superior, faults and all.

The 1:200 is so poor I’m sending it back, the print is the worst thing, the more you see it the more you know it’s just WRONG….

My overall recommendation: unless you’re a chronic Virgin Atlantic fan like me, give them both a miss…not worth the money on the 1:200, the 1:400 is passable. 

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2 thoughts on “Virgin Atlantic A340-600 G-VNAP Phoenix 1:200 & 1:400 May 2018

  1. (1.) “model is nearly three times the price of the 1:400″, (2.) 1:400 is overall, superior, faults and all.”, and, I might add, (3.)1:400 take up half the space. What’s not to like about 1:400? This particular direct comparison of a !:200 and 1:400 model is not often done – EVERY model, even different examples of the same model by the same manufacturer in the same scale, are unique and different one from the other. Quality control is not a constant. Doug

    1. I wasn’t originally aiming for one to beat the other, I bought both as they live in different parts of the house and I supposed superiority with 1:200, and I remain mildly surprised, but the 1:200 really isn’t that brilliant when scrutinised.

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